Column Date 2007-03-11

Ohio challenges Florida for ‘Most Birdbrained State’ title

The State of Ohio has come up with a new plan to control sex offenders.

No, they aren’t suggesting that every sex offender in Ohio wear a scarlet “S” on his or her clothing.

They want them to put special flourescent green license plates on their cars.

Which means, I guess, that soon everyone in the Buckeye State will know when the car in front of them is being driven by a serious sex offender.

(On the other hand, maybe the person driving is the sex offender’s mother. Or son. Or a friend who’s borrowed the car. Or a mechanic taking the car out for a test run. It gets a bit tricky, don’t you think?)

And green, of course, is obviously the wrong color. It’s the universal color for “Go Ahead” – not exactly the message for a sex offender.

Exactly how this green license plate is supposed to make the good people of Ohio safer is a bit hazy. (In cases of child molestation, for instance, 90% of the victims know their offender, with almost half of the offenders being a family member).

And I’m not quite sure what a law-abiding Ohioan is supposed to do when he sees a green license plate. After all, the sex offender driving the car has already done prison time, has gone through counseling, has been judged OK to live in society, is not allowed to live close to schools, playgrounds, etc.

Do you ignore the license plate? (In which case, what’s the purpose of it?) Do you give the driver the finger? Ram his car? Give a polite nod? Or what?

But if Ohio is really serious about putting labels on people who are dangerous to the public, they should go further.

How about a politician who has been caught with his hand in the till?

My thought: special black & white striped license plates -- reminding us of prison uniforms -- for the cars of politicians when they’re released from prison. (“Hey, kids – we’re in Ohio now! Let’s see how many convicted politicians we can count...”)

And what about stock brokers or corporate executives who have stolen millions of dollars and decimated thousands of pension plans? These felons should have really garish purple plates, so that when we drive up to our friendly, local stock brokerage firm, a row of Mercedes CLS500s with purple plates would be a good warning to hit the accelerator and keep on going.

I also think that anyone still driving over the age of 85 should have a bright yellow license plate with very large type on it. Seeing this bold license plate will immediately explain why the car has been going 20 miles an hour in the passing lane with the turn signal on for the last five miles.

Teen drivers, it goes without saying, should have flourescent red plates, with a blinking neon border, giving other drivers ample time to take evasive action.

Of course, Ohio could protect the public even more by issuing special plates for people who drive with dogs on their laps...and women who like to put on makeup at 50 mph...and so on.

Come to think of it, Ohio could soon become to license plates what Florida is to voting machines.

©2007 Peter Tannen